The 2010 rainy season in West Africa has opened with hail storms in Guinea and the heaviest rain in 50 years in northern Chad. Floods have killed at least 80 people and destroyed homes, bridges, septic tanks, livestock, crops and food stocks; dams have broken, and wells and latrines and have been submerged.
The floods come as communities across West Africa are facing food shortages and livestock losses, with aid agencies providing emergency care to tens of thousands of severely malnourished children.
In many cases the scale of flood damage and people's needs have surpassed governments' capacity, said official and UN reports. Broken sanitation and water systems put disinfecting the water supply and providing sanitation facilities, such as mobile toilets, among the most urgent needs.
The extent of the destruction – and ensuing threats to health – highlighted the need to disaster-proof such systems in the long term. In June parliamentarians from around West Africa signed a plan of action to incorporate disaster risk reduction – including ensuring that water and sanitation infrastructure was disaster resilient – into poverty reduction and Millennium Development Goal (MDG) programmes.
Given the devastating impact of natural disasters on education, health and food security, the lawmakers "came to the conclusion that we cannot achieve the [MDGs] without addressing disaster vulnerability, risk and the impact of climate change."
Here is a summary of flood impact in the region until end of July:
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Flooding has killed at least 14 people, scores of villages remain inaccessible and thousands of people are living in schools and other public buildings, according to the government.
Dams have burst in many areas. Dams are critical to water supply in Burkina, where many regions experience water shortages during the dry season. An agriculture ministry official said 139 dams would have to be refurbished to withstand further floods.
Some 2,000 hectares of crops in the east and 400 in the centre are under water.
The Red Cross is providing drinking water, blankets, soap and buckets to affected families. The Burkina government said it needed about 510 million CFA (nearly US$1 million) in relief supplies, including blankets, soap and cooking utensils.
In the Extreme North region at least 15 people died and 5,000 lost their homes in violent storms in late July, local authorities in the hard-hit town of Pouss told IRIN.
The region is facing a cholera epidemic, with at least 94 deaths among some 1,300 cases.
At least three people have died in floods throughout Chad. President Idriss Deby in late July visited Faya-Largeau, the regional capital in northern Chad, and said the government had made available 30 million CFA ($60,000) and tons of food to help those affected.
At least two people died in Faya-Largeau and hundreds were left homeless when flooding destroyed homes and killed livestock. Locals say such flooding had not been seen in at least 50 years. In Ouaddaï and Batha regions, flood water has destroyed homes and washed away roads.
Most neighbourhoods in the southern part of the capital, N'djamena, are under water, with residents calling on the authorities to send motor-pumps "so our homes won't fall in on us and our children".
Mudslides and floods have killed at least 11 people and displaced hundreds in the commercial capital, Abidjan, and Bondoukou, 420 km east of Abidjan.
As part of its emergency plan, the government has given cash to families displaced by flood water in Abidjan.
The Red Cross is providing buckets, soap, sheets, tents and utensils to displaced families.
In June and July floods killed at least 40 people and left over 25,000 homeless, according to the National Disaster Management Organization, which said septic tanks and pipes had been destroyed and latrines were submerged, making water and sanitation needs urgent.
The authorities are looking to provide mobile toilets to some affected populations; sanitation in some areas has always been poor, with many people defecating in the open.
A joint mission by government, the UN and NGOs reported that in the capital, Accra, flooding was caused mainly by "buildings in waterways, and construction of roads without proper drainage alignment".
On the night of 15 to 16 July, a hail storm with strong winds in Labé, middle Guinea, damaged homes and affected 869 households, and destroyed 322 hectares of crops, according to UN and government humanitarian officials just back from an evaluation of the area.
In the capital, Conakry, flooding killed at least seven people on 6 July, and displaced or otherwise affected 7,615 people, the authorities told UN agencies there.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Guinea will meet during the week starting on 2 August to decide on how aid agencies can assist people affected in Conakry and Labé.
Villages in Zinder and Maradi regions experienced heavy flooding in late July. On 20 July about 180 mm of rain fell in the rural communities of Raffa and Moa, some 100 km from Zinder city, capital of Zinder region.
At least 1,023 homes collapsed, along with 36 shops, seven mosques and one school, according to OCHA. Some 30,000 animals also perished, including cows, camels and chickens.
Animal cadavers are scattered around water points that are the only source of water for people and livestock, according to an OCHA bulletin covering 22-28 July, which said the water points must be disinfected and the cadavers incinerated as soon as possible.
In Maradi more than 300 homes were damaged or destroyed, and OCHA said people were spending their time repairing their homes, to the detriment of their farming.
Intermittent flooding in various parts of Nigeria started in April. Some 100,000 farmers in Delta and Bayelsa states have lost their crops, according to Preye Brown, chairman of the state youth council.
No deaths have been recorded, but flood water has forced some 500 people from their homes.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions